Kesher Israel starts search for Freundel successor

Kesher Israel is searching for its first new rabbi since 1988. Photo by Suzanne Pollack
Kesher Israel is searching for its first new rabbi since 1988.
Photo by Suzanne Pollack

Kesher Israel has begun a search for a new rabbi.

The synagogue’s president, Elanit Jakabovics, hopes the rabbi will be in place in the summer of 2016. But first, the Orthodox congregation in Georgetown will have to figure out what kind of rabbi
it wants.

“It’s going to be a lot of work. There’s a lot of research involved,” Jakabovics said last week, two days before the congregation’s former rabbi, Barry Freundel, was sentenced in D.C. Superior Court to 6½ years in prison for videotaping dozens of women as they prepared to use the synagogue’s mikvah, or ritual bath.

The congregation has just finished a series of six focus groups, in which between 10 and 15 members, guided by a facilitator, discussed the attributes of the rabbi that they would like to see hired.

A research committee will take the results of the focus groups and develop a survey for the membership, “which will explore how we want our community to develop and what sort of rabbi is best equipped for this journey,” according to a letter to members from Jakabovics and Mindy Horowitz, chair of the rabbinic research committee, which also organized the focus groups.

By the end of its work, the research committee will have drawn up a detailed rabbinic job description, as well as guidelines for a rabbinic search committee, which will then go out and find a rabbi.

That handoff will tentatively happen by the fall, when jobs for rabbis are usually posted, Jakabovics said. During the winter, the search committee will consider the applications for rabbi that come in and bring a number of candidates to spend a Shabbat with the congregation.

If all goes according to plan, by spring, the congregation should be ready to offer one of those candidates at job. Whoever accepts the position will be Kesher Israel’s first new rabbi since 1988.

Kesher Israel is a modern Orthodox congregation and Jakabovics said the congregation will likely turn to candidates from institutions such as modern Orthodox Yeshiva University and the more liberal Open Orthodox Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.

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  1. If a shul hired a “rabbi” from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah they are no longer a modern Orthodox congregation.


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